Amanda Smock draws inspiration from late father
BIRMINGHAM, England—Triple jumper Amanda Smock can hear her father's voice each time she takes off down the runway on the track:
You can do this. Just trust yourself. You're ready.
Her father believed she would make the Olympic squad, even after Smock came up short at the U.S. trials four years ago. Even when she was on the fence about giving it another try.
When she didn't make the team for Beijing, he took his credential -- the one that let him stand close enough for last-minute encouragement -- scribbled out 2008 and wrote 2012.
That would be her time, her moment.
Glen Thieschafer wasn't around to see his daughter make the squad for the London Games. He died of cancer on June 1, 2009, at 52.
"I think of him every time I step out there," said Smock, who won the triple jump at trials last month. "Especially this year, knowing that every jump was directing me toward the Olympics."
He wasn't there so much for rah-rah speeches, but for simple messages conveyed with his eyes. One look and Smock was instantly filled with confidence.
"He was always the person I wanted to speak to me last," she said. "He had this amazing ability to get into my head and make me believe I could do anything."
They were at their family cabin when her dad casually slid over his "2012" credential.
"I was like, 'Ha, ha, dad. That's funny. That's a long time from now,'" said Smock, who turns 30 on opening day in London. "I wasn't ready for four more years of training."
She married Greg Smock in 2009, and shortly afterward her dad's illness progressed.
She moved back home to be close and listen to his stories.
"Somewhere in the horribleness of cancer was this awesome blessing for us. My family was be able to spend the last month together, to have conversations with each other most don't get to have," Smock said. "He was very interested in what we were going to do with the rest of our lives."
Two weeks after his death, she attended nationals.
"It was 100 percent what he would've wanted me to do," said Smock, who finished sixth at the meet. "It felt so right, to do that."
So did training again for the Olympics.
Smock was rummaging through her things two years ago when she came across her father's credential and the "2012" message.
One more try.
She won nationals in 2011 and was on top of her game heading into the trials in June, bringing quite a fan section with her to Eugene, Ore.
There were 25 in all, including four of her father's sisters. With each jump at the meet, Smock would wave and blow kisses to her entourage.
"It was the coolest exchange of thoughts and emotions," she said.
Even more so when she made the team by winning with a top jump of 45 feet, 9 inches. Not her best, but definitely her most meaningful.
"My family all knows how proud my father would've been of me," she said.
Shortly after making the team, Smock returned to her hometown of Melrose, Minn., for a parade thrown in her honor.
Technically it was part of a festival, but she rode on her own float and people lined the streets to see her and get an autograph.
"That might be the coolest thing about this experience: how much support I've received," she said. "It makes me feel like my heart is going to explode. It's awesome to know so many people are behind me."
And all because of a date on a credential.
"His picture was on it ..." she said, pausing for a moment. "He was going through chemo at the time and his head was bald. There was a white background. The lighting makes him look angelic.
"It's cool, the picture. I love looking at it."
Reach out to AP Sports Writer Pat Graham on Twitter: http://twitter.com/pgraham34